Professor Gilli Bush-Bailey

Research interests

I am interested in looking at the histories of theatre in terms of  archeologies of performance, by which I mean the excavation and uncovering of the methods and forms in which we frame stories about past theatre and performance events. I am particularly interested in the way we tell stories about women as performance practitioners. My early research and publication focused on unrecognized networks and connections between the first actresses and female playwrights in Restoration theatre. Research on the actress/playwright Jane Scott included an AHRB funded series of practical workshops on the melodramas she created at her Sans Pareil theatre (1809-1819). My monograph on Frances Maria Kelly includes a fully annotated and hitherto unpublished text of her 1832 one-woman show Dramatic Recollections. Alongside the book, I have created a performance work that juxtaposes Kelly’s stories of being a child performer on stage with my own re-membered experiences as a child performer on television. The collection of monologues included in Plays and Performance Texts by Women 1880-1930 furthers my ongoing research in the cultural politics of women’s performance work on stage, platform and screen.



I joined the Department of Drama and Theatre as a Lecturer in 2001, following a first career as a professional actress. I have taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, creating courses on women and comedy, nineteenth-century melodrama and theatre history. I particularly enjoy working with postgraduate research students and as Director of Graduate Studies (2002-2007) I was instrumental in creating a dedicated course of research skills training in the department. I am currently on research leave but I continue to work with my current PhD students and welcome enquiries from potential research students, particularly those interested in pursuing the archeologies of women’s performance.

Other work

I maintain strong links with commercial theatre and television industries, organizing the ‘Heart of the West End’ conference in 2012 hosted at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and acting as academic consultant for BBC documentary development. As Head of Department (2008-2012) and in my current role as Director of Theatre Development, I have been closely involved with the design and delivery of the department’s new theatre space. The Caryl Churchill Theatre offers a galleried three-sided performance space, rehearsal studios and full back stage facilities.

I was also involved with the acquisition, the cataloging and the public launch of RHUL’s Roy Waters Theatre Collection and in collaboration with V&A’s theatre collection made a successful application for a related AHRC studentship on ‘Private Passions: theatre collectors, their collections and the archive’. I am examining PhDs for Warwick, Exeter, Sheffield this year, and I am external examiner for MA Classical and MA Contemporary Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama and MA Classical Acting at Kingston. I regularly review submissions to publishers, act as drama specialist advisor for Commonwealth Studentship Awards and I am a member of the AHRC peer review college.

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